Eric MagangaNovember 12, 2019

Are you following the flywheel? Customer acquisition revisited

Fresh eyes and fresh ideas are critical to progress and this includes gaining customers in business. Could you be so locked into the customer acquisition funnel that you are missing the alternatives?

The funnel might be satisfying all your needs. But, if you feel a supplement is in order, you are in luck. Lately, the funnel has been challenged and in the view of some, replaced by the customer acquisition flywheel. The move from a linear journey to a spinning, momentum-based one shifts the focus over to retaining customers. But is the funnel done? Should we only be talking about the flywheel? Read on for the full breakdown.

Acquisition marketing flywheel definition (the funnel improved?)

James Watt (that’s right, like the Watts in your lightbulb) invented the flywheel to use in the steam engine. The underlying principle was that the more force there is and the less friction, the faster the flywheel spins. The connection to business is that the same principles can be applied to the customer acquisition journey. Momentum can be the difference between someone who buys one product and a repeat customer. The repeat customer scenario should be what you strive for.

But how do you go about doing it?

In flywheel marketing, building a relationship facilitates multiple sales. For example, you could funnel someone in for a one-time purchase of your B2B software. Or, you could use the flywheel to gain a loyal customer that subscribes to your newsletter, buys future iterations of your product, and brings their friends in as new customers.

With the flywheel, the buying journey is not a linear process – instead you aim for momentum and remove friction to keep the wheel running smoothly and efficiently.

In marketing, the flywheel has three stages. Get to know how to attract, engage, and delight in the following section.

Flywheel features

The flywheel gathers steam in the attract stage. Here you find customers and spark their curiosity.

In the engage part of the flywheel you build a relationship with the consumer. The key is to give the customer a streamlined experience based on their individual needs and make it crystal clear how reliable and trustworthy you are.

The crucial third stage of the flywheel is to delight. At the core you keep customers happy through good service. So, if you are a sports team, you could delight with an evening where you give away jerseys and memorabilia to reward fans who buy tickets.

Definition of the customer acquisition funnel

The more traditional customer acquisition funnel illustrates how you bring people into your company and take them on the journey from prospect to customer. One great visualization of the process follows below – but is it complete enough?

Different stages of the funnel

In startups, the process of client acquisition is colloquially referred to as the Pirate Metrics because the stages spell out AARRR, just like a pirate would say. They are as follows:

  • Acquisition

  • Activation

  • Revenue

  • Retention

  • Referral

The flywheel has some advantages by not being linear but retaining and gaining referrals from the customer are still important. So it’s best not to completely overlook Pirate Metrics either.

Ultimately, it’s all about the customer!

Customers in flywheel marketing

In the flywheel model, you aren’t growing your business alone. In fact, customers are helping you in the process as valuable partners. It could be understood as taking the referral metric and prioritizing it. The customers are at the center and you work to build outstanding relationships with them.

Inbound marketing and the flywheel

Inbound marketing is characterized by drawing in the customers who are a good fit for your product. It can for example be done with content marketing in the form of search engine optimized blog posts that clearly communicate the benefits and value associated with your product.

Outbound marketing, on the other hand, is where you communicate in more general terms to an audience for example with newspaper ads.

Inbound marketing is the perfect complement to the marketing flywheel. For example, you could increase the momentum of your flywheel by doing keyword research to find out what content your customers are interested in and tailoring relevant written posts to that.

So don’t choose between the flywheel and inbound marketing, incorporate both into your marketing strategy for the most benefits.


So if you are ready to attract, engage, and delight potential buyers then go ahead and adopt the flywheel.

Customers are the key to the growth of your business. The flywheel expands on the principles of the customer acquisition funnel also known as startup pirate metrics. The two approaches can be used in unison to cover up each other’s weaknesses. The priority should be to think about how to build relationships that will last long and lead to repeat purchases.

In the mood for sharing?